Republican Jose Padilla, a lawyer and first-generation American, on Tuesday announced he is running against U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., in a congressional district that is both heavily Hispanic and Democratic by voter registration.
Padilla said he hopes his Latino heritage and poverty-stricken upbringing will garner him support from working- class voters.
His parents legally emigrated from Honduras, and he was born in the United States, he said, adding, “We learned English together.” His father was a Teamsters union truck driver, and his mother was a hotel maid.
“I think someone like me understands the needs of the community because they grew up like I did,” Padilla said in an interview. “What I’m hoping is it will open the door to dialogue. … I think people are tired of politics and are open to new faces and new ideas.”
Titus is running for re-election to the 1st Congressional District, an urban Las Vegas area where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by more than a 2-to-1 margin. The district is about 44 percent Hispanic.
Titus previously represented the 3rd Congressional District but lost that seat to Republican Joe Heck in 2010. She returned to Congress in 2012, winning the vacated seat of former Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat.
Padilla, 38, is a relative newcomer to Las Vegas, where he has lived for more than two years. He practices corporate law after starting his legal career in Austin, Texas.
Padilla said he was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
In announcing his campaign, Padilla said Nevadans are tired of gridlock in Washington, D.C.
“Washington’s problems are making the American dream more and more difficult to realize, especially in Nevada,” he said in a statement. “The current administration’s policies and regulations are hurting the economy and job growth, and Obamacare has not led to a decrease in actual health care costs. The people of Nevada are sick of the partisanship and rhetoric coming out of Washington and it’s time for a change.”
Padilla said Obamacare “needs a complete overhaul” because it “was designed to help insurance companies.”
“What we need is health reform designed to help patients,” he said.
Padilla said, as an example, the new health care law bans federal funding for physician-owned hospitals. He said regulations like that make costs rise. Less regulation would allow more free market forces to lower health care costs.
On immigration, Padilla said he believes undocumented immigrants “who are contributing to society deserve a chance at citizenship.” He said he has helped many relatives immigrate to the United States and in some cases it took 10 years.
“Having been exposed to the immigration system, I’ve felt for a long time that it’s broken,” said Padilla, whose Russian wife, Olga, is an immigrant. “For someone who has lived the American dream, I’ve always wanted to give back.”
Padilla said he is concerned about the lack of jobs with the unemployment rate in Nevada at 8.8 percent.
He said businesses will continue to be afraid to hire employees until there is more certainty that government won’t approve new regulations or taxes that might hamper growth.
“What you need to have is certainty and less regulation,” Padilla said.
Padilla said he isn’t worried about the long odds he will face in a Democratic district. He doesn’t live in the district, which is not a legal requirement. He lives in Congressional District 3, he said.
“It’s not about red or blue, it’s about green — people want more money in their pockets,” Padilla said. “I plan to work hard, do the fundraising and walk the district and get to know the people.”
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj